Vineland Music Festival promoters C3 Presents and Festival Republic say they aren’t sweating competition from the newly announced All Points West Music & Arts fest scheduled the same August 8-10 weekend, but industry rumors that the fest may be in trouble were spreading like wildfire at press time.
In addition to now facing a directly competing festival just up the New Jersey Turnpike, there are other challenges including getting a master plan formalized and lease contract signed for the site, and appeasing Vineland residents who are mounting an organized effort to keep the festival out of their backyard.
A draft master plan for the Vineland site recently submitted by C3 and Festival Republic won’t be reviewed by the Vineland Planning Board until its regular meeting February 13th, and sources tell Pollstar that a contract securing the site isn’t finalized.
"We would have to vote on the contract sometime before March, because that’s when the promoters would like to make the announcement of what bands are playing," Vineland council president John Barretta told the Bridgeton News.
"Also, there are still some outstanding issues that need to be addressed before we make a decision."
Adding to the pressure over those "outstanding issues" were about 150 residents who attended the first meeting of Neighbors Against Rock Concert Site (NARCS) January 10th, voicing concerns about traffic, noise and the potential for gang activity and violence associated with the festival, according to Vineland’s Daily Journal.
Residents have complained that they were unaware of plans for a festival drawing up to 40,000 music fans until it was announced as a "done deal."
Pete Steenland, one of the fledgling group’s founders, has filed a request for all information, including documents and correspondence, between Vineland Mayor Perry Barse and the concert promoters.
If he doesn’t get it, Steenland vows to take legal action, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer.
"They have seven … business days to provide the information," Steenland told the paper. "If they don’t, we will sue them."
Barse, who was instrumental in working with C3 and Festival Republic to bring the inaugural event to an undeveloped site in the city, is also drawing fire from mayoral candidate Robert Romano, whom he will face in a May re-election bid.
While Romano told the Daily Journal he would not interfere with the 2008 festival if elected mayor, he would make no promises for future installments at the same 570-acre farm site. He’s also reportedly questioned the financial windfall Barse has predicted for the city located midway between Philadelphia and Atlantic City.
"Obviously, the music festival is a double-edged sword," Romano said in an interview with the Vineland newspaper. "I think it’s going to be a nightmare for the neighborhood, and it’s going to be a nightmare for traffic.
In response to NARCS, a group supporting the festival and calling itself Greater Group has sprung up.
"Many of our neighbors, clergy and elected officials see the value in bringing a music festival to Vineland and are excited about the initiative," organizer Michael Lods told the Bridgeton News. "We do not want all of Vineland to hear only the voice of a marginal group of fearful residents who refer to themselves as NARCS."
While there’s a lot of smoke, it’s not clear there’s much fire. Sources close to the debate told Pollstar that the clamor by neighbors against the festival didn’t appear to rise to the level of opposition that would realistically pose a threat to it.
However, other factors cited by industry observers could potentially create a "perfect storm" of logistical challenges to give C3 Presents and Festival Republic more than just a local headache from NIMBYs.
Reports that the festival has hit a major snag could not be confirmed at press time, with sources close to the organizing effort either not returning calls or declining to confirm or deny reports of trouble in the wake of the announcement of a competing festival.
The Vineland Festival now finds itself going head-to-head with the AEG/Goldenvoice-promoted All Points West fest in Jersey City, in addition to the Virgin Festival in Baltimore, also tentatively scheduled the same August weekend.
C3 Presents partner Charles Attal could not be reached for comment at press time, but previously told the Daily Herald that Vineland would be sharing acts with Points West, and that the two festivals were "healthy" for the regional music scene.
"We’re going to be sharing a couple acts at the mid-level range, nothing on the top level, but I think they’re going to be very different" events, Attal told the paper.
Neither festival has announced a lineup yet, though Radiohead has been an early betting favorite for the Points West show.